First City Hall SF 1878(names of) Contractors and Sub-contr'. names : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

My g-grandfather was a building contractor on the first city hall of sf. Around 1878. We have payroll records that show this. His office was on Valencia Street. Apprears that approx. 43 people were employed by him. The name was Charles I. Burks.

Where can I find further information regarding this construction project the name of the company and if there were any partnerships involved or other family members involved? Thank you

-- Susan McLean (, September 09, 2001


Hello Susan-

Per the 1879-80 San Francisco Municipal Report- page 611

Listed under contract for the New City Hall there is the listing of C. J. BURKS -installation of Skylights- amount of contract $3,100- Date of Contract October, 29, 1879

Best, Carolyn

-- carolyn feroben (, October 28, 2001.

If your grandfather was responsible for the first city hall then he was probably involved in some kind of graft or illegal business activity. During the 1906 Earthquake, the first city hall completely collapsed in total ruins. Upon examination it was noticed that there was some shabby construction done. There was something about the walls (or the walls being hollow) and the material used and maybe something about the foundation too. I don't exactly remember but there was a huge stink raised about it afterward. Maybe I'll remember more about it later but it definitely rings a bell.

-- Harry Murphy (*), November 02, 2001.

Hey Harry,

Lighten up dude. What gives you the right to accuse her grandfather of being involved in criminal activity? I just saw you self rightous answer regarding the total number of deaths from the 1906 quake as well and frankly, I don't like your holier than thou attitude.

If you want to answer questions in this forum, then do it. But leave your personal opinions at home.


-- rob summers (, April 08, 2002.

I think it was actually the Board of Supervisors (or whatever they were called back then) who were the crooks. Who was it described them as being so corrupt that they'd eat the paint off the walls?

The contractors did what they were hired to do. I doubt that any had enough of a sweeping vision of City Hall to catch on to the oddball construction (like the plaster columns painted to look like marble).

-- Miss Rosa (, April 09, 2002.

Wrong. There is no way in hell a contractor would not have been in on this. Structurally, the old city hall was completely unstable. Anyone but a beginning carpenter would have been unaware of this. You don't fill the main supporting structures with paper and expect to have a structurally sound building. Her grandfather was not a beginning carpenter but as stated had an office and employed 43 people under him. He knew exactly what he was doing. And to get the contract to build city hall in the first place, he had to "play ball." Most likely he played a lot of ball with those slimeball city officials. And it's very likely her grandfather was responsible for many other collapsed buildings during the earthquake. The only good thing about the 1906 Earthquake was the time that it happened. Had it happened three or four hours later when all the offices and business were filled, 100,000 people or more would have died. There is no excuse in hell for having done this kind of life-threatening shabby construction. Everyone knew even then about the devastating earthquakes the city had like the one in 1868. No construction should have been made like that. You want some self-righteousness. I'll give you some self-righteousness. Her grandfather and the city officials and the city inspectors who were paid to look the other way and all the others who were responsible for that shabby construction should all have been EXECUTED. Some of you might argue that it would have made no difference at all whether a building was well constructed or not since the Earthquake would have brought down even well-constructed buildings. I would beg to differ with you. For example, William Ralston knew what was going on with shabby building construction and he would have none of it for his own Palace Hotel. He wanted that building built soundly. And when the earthquake hit, his hotel suffered only a few cracks and some broken glass.

-- Harry Murphy (*), April 12, 2002.

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